What’s Different About Developing for BlackBerry BLACKBERRY

If you’re familiar with developing for modern desktop PCs or servers, there are many things you might not think about before starting to develop for BlackBerry. Of course, every platform is different, but there are some things to keep in mind when designing and implementing an application for BlackBerry.

Limited CPU and Memory

Generally, BlackBerry CPU speed and RAM – as with most mobile devices – lag a few years behind average PCs. The latest BlackBerry devices are getting faster, so this isn’t as much of a constraint as it was a few years ago. There are lots of reasons for these limitations, including prolonging battery life and keeping devices small, but in general, it’s good to keep in mind that your processor-intensive desktop application algorithmg may not run as nicely on a BlackBerry device. Ways around this include redesigning your application to let the server, if you have one, do some of the heavy lifting. Also, because the BlackBerry OS is multitasking, CPU- or RAM-hungry applications running in the background can make things difficult for other applications on the device. This is another way of saying “play nice with other applications on the device!”

Java as the Native API

The Java virtual machine (VM) on the BlackBerry is as close to the hardware as you can get. You can’t write a non-Java native application for the platform. This means that you’re always in a garbage-collected, bytecode-interpreted environment, and you don’t have real-time access to the hardware.

Limited Screen Real-Estate

The largest BlackBerry device screen, in terms of number of pixels and physical size, is the touch-screen Storm. It measures 3.25 inches and has a 360 × 480 resolution. Most devices have a 3-inch or smaller screen.

User Input

The BlackBerry Storm lets the user click anywhere on the screen.Other devices don’thave a touch screen, so the user is limited to the trackball (or trackpad on some recent device models) and keyboard. The trackball is like a set of up, down, left, and right cursor keys—not like a mouse. Your user interface must be designed with this in mind. Imagine how difficult it would be to navigate around a modern Windows application (like Microsoft Office) using just your cursor keys, and you’ll have an idea of what the BlackBerry constraints mean.

Many Different Devices

A range of BlackBerry devices is currently being sold and used, and their screen resolutions range from 240 × 260 to 480 × 360. Physical screen sizes change too. Some of the devices have a trackball or optical trackpad along with a keyboard, but a couple of models have a touch screen instead. Some have full QWERTY keyboards, while others have the BlackBerry SureType keyboard, which has one or two letters per key. The BlackBerry Storm can present different types of virtual keyboards depending on device orientation and user preferences. Processor speed and RAM vary from device to device, as does network speed. And some hardware features, such as GPS, are not available on all devices. You should be aware of these differences and design your application to work with as many devices as possible if you want to reach a significant number of BlackBerry users.


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